Saudi Arabia is an area of great value for understanding the migration of Homo sapiens “out of Africa” and his predecessors. Our research aims to investigate speleothems and ancient lake deposits of Saudi Arabia as natural climatic and environmental archives to identify time intervals when the vast Arabian desert turned into a “green desert” with abundant vegetation and freshwater resources. To do so, we use a wide range of age dating methods (radiocarbon, Uranium-series and  Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL)), geochemical (hydrogen, oxygen and carbon isotopes), biological (ostracods, molluscs) and geological (sediment properties). Overall, our climatic and environmental reconstructions provided new and more detailed information on the timing and nature of humid periods in Arabia, allowing us to identify periods when hominins could disperse across the vast African and Arabian desert belt into Europe and Asia. Furthermore, our records helped to identify changes in the spatial extent of the African and Indian monsoons during the last 500,000 years. 

Key Publications

Rosenberg, T., Preusser, F., Risberg, J., Plikk, A., A Kadi, K., Matter, A., Fleitmann, D. (2013). Middle and Late Pleistocene humid periods recorded in palaeolake deposits of the Nafud desert, Saudi Arabia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 70, 109-123.

Rosenberg, T.M., Preusser, F., Blechschmidt, I., Fleitmann, D., Jagher, R., Matter, A. (2012). Late Pleistocene palaeolake in the interior of Oman: A potential key-area for the dispersal of anatomically modern humans out-of-Africa. Journal of Quaternary Science, 27, 13-16.

Rosenberg, T.M., Preusser, F., Fleitmann, D., Schwalb, A., Penkman, K., Schmid, T.W., Al-Shanti, M.A., Kadi, K., Matter, A. (2011). Humid periods in southern Arabia: windows of opportunity for modern human dispersal. Geology, 39, 1115-1118.

Gennari, G., Rosenberg, T., Spezzaferri, S., Berger, J.-P., Fleitmann D., Preusser, F., Al-Shanti, M., Matter A. (2011). Faunal evidence of a Holocene pluvial phase in Southern Arabia with remarks on the morphological variability of Helenina anderseni. Journal of Foraminiferal Research, 41, 248-259.

Facts & Figures


2016-2017 NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory (NIGL) proposal
2013-2015NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory (NIGL) proposal
2007-2011SNSF project funding

Responsible Scientists
Prof. Dominik Fleitmann
Dr. Stéphane Affolter